Photo by Matt Walsh on Unsplash


What the hell? I rolled over and checked my clock on the nightstand. 1:52 am with someone banging on my door is not a good sign. I jumped up and threw on my robe and headed for the front door.


What? Someone’s banging on my backdoor? I flipped on the lights in the kitchen and saw a wildly disheveled man through the glass door. Pausing for a second, I realized who it was. With a sigh, I reached out and unlocked the door and opened it.

“About damn time,” he exclaimed as he entered my kitchen, “You got to help me!”

“Jack, relax. Have a seat and tell me what’s so damn urgent at 2 in the morning.”

Jack looked wildly around the kitchen and rushed to the opening to my living room to take a peek. “You are alone, aren’t you?”

I sighed and nodded. Again, I gestured for Jack to take a seat. He looked around the kitchen a bit more and then scurried to the chair muttering, “Can’t be too sure they aren’t watching.”

Here we go again I thought. I went over and started making coffee as I knew it would be a long night. This wasn’t the first time Jack had come over with his wild conspiracy theories, though it had been almost a year since the last time I had seen him. He was quickly becoming the bane of my existence. I rued the day I had ever befriended him.

“So who is watching?”

“CIA, FBI, NSA, DHS, FDA, FTC, and any number of other three letter agencies. I haven’t figured out all of them yet, but I will, I will…”

“Wait, FDA? The Food and Drug Administration? Why would they be watching you?”

“I don’t know, I don’t know, but ever since that time at Applebee’s when I drank their water and next thing you know I found myself in a field outside of town missing my pants, I’ve suspected they are drugging me. Don’t trust anybody, I’m telling you, don’t trust a soul.”

I carefully looked at Jack. He hadn’t changed his filthy clothes in what looked like weeks. I doubt his hair had ever seen a brush or comb and his beard was wildly tangled. He sat there wringing his hands with his eyes shifting constantly looking around. It was easy to see him as a crazy, deranged, homeless person, but I knew he had a house. He had definitely deteriorated since the last time I had talked to him.

“But, but, but, this time, this time,” his voice rose, “I’ve got them, yes sirree, I’ve got them, I’ve got them by the short and curly’s this time. They won’t be doing any more mind control stuff with me ever again.”

“Really?”, I said as I brought my coffee mug to the table and sat down across from Jack.

“Yep, yes, si, ja and every other way you can say it. I’ve got them. I discovered my house is wired to the hilt with camera’s and microphones. But, but, but, I was smart. I didn’t let on that I knew I was being watched. Instead I hacked them, I hacked them all. I’ve got proof now. No more can people say that Jack is a nut. I’ve got proof!”

This was not good, it seemed that Jack had completely gone off the rails. I thought about calling 911, but realized that in his state, he might do something completely crazy. Better to let him talk it out and maybe calm down enough to send him back home.

“Jack, that sounds great. Can you show me this proof,” I said in my most calm voice.

“Nope, no, nada, can’t trust anyone. Don’t trust a soul. I’ve got the proof on a flash drive and no one is getting it from me.” He stopped shifting his eyes and looked directly at me for the first time since entering my kitchen. “I’m pretty smart, I am. I devised a container for the flash drive and swallowed it. Yep, they ain’t getting it from me without a fight.”

This was bad news indeed. I reached into my robe pocket and withdrew my taser gun. Pointing it directly at Jack’s chest, I pulled the trigger and two wires with a prong on them shot out and embedded themselves into his chest. Jack looked down in surprise as I pulled the second trigger sending 10,000 volts into him. His chest arced and he fell over onto the floor twitching uncontrollably. I could see that it had caused him to pass out.

I got up and went and opened my silverware drawer. I lifted the tray up and out and picked up my secure cellphone along with a hypodermic needle all primed. Flipping open the cellphone, I immediately said, “This is Snowdog Three. I need a disposal unit at my location to perform a stomach autopsy of subject Two Charlie X-Ray Delta. Also need a scrub team at his residence. Stat!”

I walked over and crouched beside Jack. His eyes started fluttering and I knew he would awaken soon. I inserted the needle into his neck and his eyes popped open.


I sighed as I pressed the plunger and said, “Jack, you should have followed your own advice. Don’t trust anyone.”


Come Sail Away

Photo by Johannes Plenio on

It had been a tense hour since breaking away from the dock at the marina. Having to navigate the river to the ocean while under motor power was bad enough, then to transition to sails left me full of worry. Had I forgotten anything? Were the sails trimmed correctly? Being a novice sailor, I didn’t feel too comfortable about being on the open sea for the first time in my new boat. I keep feeling I should have studied more and taken more boating classes. Being the guy type I am, I dismissed the training and thought I would figure it out as I go.

Slowly, it dawned on me that I had finally reached my dream of sailing. As I looked upon the reflections of the waves, it left a bittersweet feeling in me. Yes, I had achieved my life-long dream, but I was alone. My wife had passed last year of cancer. We had married right after High School and forty years later, I found myself alone for the first time in my adult life. She should have been on the boat with me, but each year, we had postponed our dream until it was too late. After grieving for months, on a whim, I sold the house we had lived in for forty years and bought a brand new sailing boat.

I set course to the southeast as the wind was blowing from the west. The waves were a tad choppy, but the boat which I had named after my wife, the Heather C, rode gracefully on the seas. I should have been grinning from ear to ear, but my eyes brimmed with tears. I had no destination in mind, but as I looked up to the partly cloudy skies, I said, “Heather, we finally realized our dream, just too damn late.”

Grief overtook me and I fell to my knees. I didn’t know how I was going to go through life alone. I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to continue on. Maybe I should dive overboard and end it all. We had led an unremarkable life together. Heather wasn’t able to conceive so it had been the two of us always. After a long career at the manufacturing plant, I had taken an early retirement to take care of Heather when she was diagnosed. The cancer was too far gone by that point and quickly claimed her.

A sudden shift of the boat grabbed my attention. I looked up and around and saw dark clouds behind me flashing with lightning. A squall! I had been warned that sudden squalls might pop up and I needed to be prepared. My mind went blank. What should I do? The boat picked up speed and heeled over to the port side. Ah-ha, I need to quickly lower the main sail or the increased wind would push the boat over until it capsized. Frantically, I rushed toward the main mast and completely forgot what line I needed to haul down. I grasped a line at random and pulled hard. The sail tightened even more and I almost lost my balance. I realized then I had forgotten to put on my life jacket. The wind was picking up rapidly and I knew I didn’t have time to retrieve the jacket.

Think dammit! Then I remembered the correct sequence to lower the main sail. I released the lines so I could winch down the sail. Even though I was spinning the winch like a madman, it seemed to take forever to lower it. The rain started coming down as I finished lowering the sail. I quickly gathered the main sail to reef it to the boom. As I was tying the last knot, a shift in the wind caused the boom to swing toward me and hitting me in the chest. I felt my breath leave me as my feet left the deck of the boat. Some instinct in me caused me to try to grab onto anything in an effort to not be swept overboard. Somehow, I grasped onto the cleat holding one of the boat’s mooring lines. I almost lost my grip when my body slammed into the side of the boat.

I held on with dear life to the cleat. Dazed by the blow, my mind refused to think. I knew I had to keep hold or I would be lost to the sea. Not surprisingly, I remembered that the people who had tried to teach me to sail had said that the sea was a cruel mistress. Now I knew exactly what they meant. I tried pulling myself up onto the boat, but lacked the strength. It would be easy to give up I thought. Maybe this was the time I could rejoin Heather in the afterlife. My fingers started to loosen, but then my survival instincts kicked in and held on tightly to the cleat.

It seemed like I had been hanging on for hours, but in reality only for a few minutes when the wind stopped abruptly and the waves calmed down. I looked around but only saw dark skies except directly above me. I had never heard of a squall having an eye, but this looked exactly what I had imagined the eye of a hurricane would be like.

My eyes widened in alarm when a bright shimmering light came from above. Could it be an angel? Could it be Heather to save me? My fingers numb with pain slowly slipped from the cleat and I fell into the sea. Briefly, my head went underwater and I kicked for the surface. My boat, the Heather C had already moved away from me and was almost back into the storm. I watched as it slowly disappeared into the driving rain. This is it. Eventually I would tire of treading water and sink into the sea drowning. A sense of peace came over me. I knew I wouldn’t fight it.

But what about that light I saw? I looked up and the light was still there, but not as bright. In fact, it looked like a metallic shape instead that was glowing. What in the world is this? Did I hit my head when going overboard? Is this a dream? The shape gradually grew closer and then a most amazing thing happened. A portion of it opened up and there were stairs. The stairs moved next to me and I climbed onto them. Frozen in shock, I didn’t know whether to climb up and into the round shape or dive off and swim as fast as I could away. Before I realized it, the stairs had risen and I was deposited inside an oval room. Perhaps I was dead and this was the last vestiges of my mind conjuring up a hallucination.

Then a loud voice said, “Welcome!”

“What? Who is that? Where am I?”

Chuckling, the voice said, “You are on my spacecraft. I saw that you were about to die and decided to come save you.”

I tried to speak, but my mouth just opened and closed.

“I know, you are asking why and the answer is simple. It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to explore this galaxy, however, I find it has been a bit boring to do it alone. So I decided to pluck you out of the predicament you were in and have you join me.”

“Umm, what, wait, how?” I gibbered

Laughingly, the voice said, “Relax dude and enjoy the ride.”

I sat back and pondered all that had happened. Perchance this was fate, might even be divine providence. I pictured Heather smiling at me and knew then that this is meant to be. I don’t know where I’m going, but it sure will be interesting to find out what happens.

Inspired by the song Come Sail Away by Styx

Weekly Writing Challenge #36 – The Experiment

Prompt – Just push the button.

Prompt suggested by mlwattsupp

Slowly I opened my eyes. I felt so tired. Had I been drugged? I’m lying on a bed, somewhat comfortable, but a tad short for my tall frame. I look around and everything is white. The bed, the table with one chair, the floors and the walls, all blindingly white.

What is going on? I sit up and see that the room I’m in is about fifteen feet by fifteen feet. There is a small kitchen area with cabinets. All white of course. There are two doors on opposite sides of the room. White, with white doorknobs. I look down at the floor and there are two white slippers. I’m wearing white pants and a white shirt.

The whole damn room is white! Except, there in the corner, a big red shiny button. I approach it with trepidation. There are no notes or signs indicating what the button is for. I wonder if I should push the button, but decide that until I know more, I’ll keep my hands off of it.

A disembodied computer voice says, “Welcome Harry Gruen, to my little experiment.”

“Who’s that? Is that you John? What the hell is this?”, thinking that only John Ang could come up with a diabolical experiment like this.

“This is the white room.”

Shaking my head in disbelief, “Well, duh! Why am I here and how do I get out?”

“Harry, you may leave at any time. All you have to do is push the button, but before you do, I must explain the consequences of pushing the button.” the voice intoned.

Smacking my lips while thinking furiously, I knew there was only thing to do. I reached over and pushed the button. A loud alarm immediately shrieked and the lights turned red. Slamming my hands over my ears in agony, I fell to my knees. The alarm stopped abruptly and the lights went back to normal.

“Dammit, Harry! I didn’t even get the chance to explain the consequences. You’ve screwed this whole experiment up!”

I laughed, “John Ang, find yourself another gullible fool to experiment on. I’m out of here.”

Want to be part of the Weekly Writing Challenge? Using the prompt above, write your story and publish it with a link to this story. Make sure you tag it either md-wwc or #md-wwc

All stories of Harry Gruen is now linked on the Storylines page if you wish to read them all.

Weekly Writing Challenge #35 – The Beach

Prompt – Craft a short story about the final day of summer.

Photo by mali maeder on

Sigh, yet another poorly written book, full of misspellings, grammar errors and jarring viewpoint shifts. Why is it so hard to find a good written book lately? I looked over at my wife on the other end of the couch. She was knitting a scarf, or was it a hat? Meanwhile, she glanced up at the tv occasionally watching yet another one of her daytime soaps. I couldn’t stand those things, that’s why I kept my hearing aids off whenever she turned on the tv.

I glanced out the window and it looked to be a beautiful day. We shouldn’t be sitting here in our retirement age sitting on the couch, reading bad books and watching tv all day long. In that instant, I made a decision.

Turning up my hearing aids, I turned and said to my wife, “Honey, it’s a beautiful day. Why don’t we go take a walk on the beach?”

She arched her eyebrow and looked sidelong at me, “The beach? I’m watching my soaps. Besides, are your knees up for the walk?”

Sighing, “Never mind about my knees, it’s the last day of summer and we haven’t walked the beach once this year. You stream the soaps, so you can pause it and watch after.”

Pursing her lips in thought, she looked at my face for a long moment. “Perhaps we could go for a short walk, it has been a long time.”

We got our shoes on and light weight jackets and drove to the beach. I was right, it was beautiful there with the softly roaring of the waves, the fresh air and feel of sand on our bare feet. We had taken off our shoes after crossing the soft sand to the packed sand near the water’s edge. Slowly we walked along, side by side. We didn’t hold hands as we did many years ago. She was looking at the surf and a guy on a kite surfer in the distance.

Suddenly I stopped. With creaking knees, I stooped down and picked up a perfect starfish. It had to be at least six inches across. My wife had stopped a couple of paces after I did, perhaps sensing I wasn’t next to her any more. I held out my hand and she grasped it to help me back standing. Handing her the starfish, I watched her eyes light up. A smile appeared that bespoke of pure joy. I couldn’t help but grin.

As she examined the starfish, I twisted my head to work out a kink in my neck. I spied a young man sitting on the beach about twenty yards from us. He was writing and occasionally glancing at us. Curious as to what he was writing, I slipped my hand in my wife’s hand and gave her a gentle tug toward the man. As he was sitting on the soft sand, it was slow going. Halfway to him, he stopped writing and looked up at us. I waved my other hand in greeting and kept trudging toward him.

“Hello young man. I’m sorry to bother you, but I felt an overwhelming desire to know what you are writing.”

The young man looked down at his notebook and back up at me. Wordlessly, he handed the notebook to me. He said, “It’s a character sketch. I come down here to the beach and pick out a person or a couple and describe them and imagine what their life is like.”

“Hmmph, I’ve never heard of such a thing. Are you an author?”, I inquired.

He shook his head, “No, I’m an aspiring writer but hope to be published one day.”

I looked down at what he had written. Surprisingly, it had no misspellings. The grammar was almost perfect. He had described my wife and I to the tee. I handed back his notebook to him and looked off into the distance for a minute thinking.

“Young man, you are not an aspiring writer at all.” I declared. With that, his face fell in disappointment. My wife grinned and gave me a small punch in my arm.

I chuckled and said, “You are a writer, a darn good one. Right now you are an aspiring author, but I think one day you will be a great author. Thank you for letting me read a small part of your writings.”

His eyes widened and his mouth opened as in shock. Maybe no one had ever told him that he was talented. I saluted him with two fingers and turned to walk back near the shore. My wife slipped her hand in mine as we walked. We both had smiles on our faces, mine from reading well written words and hers from having a perfect starfish.

“I don’t know why we don’t come to the beach more often. Why is it that we only seem to come on the last day of summer?”, I mused.

My wife laughed, “Because dear, you’ll be on your back for the next week with aching knees or have you forgotten the last five summers?”

I stopped and drew her hands towards my face and gave her a kiss on her knuckles. “I do remember, dear. I’m not going senile yet. I only wish I could come more often just to see you smile.”

She grinned even more broadly, “I do love you Henry, and I know you love me, even if you never say it. Let’s go home, it’s time to get you off your legs and eat supper.”

As we started to exit the beach, I turned and looked back. I wondered if this was the last time I would ever get to go to the beach. At my age, I was slowing down more and more. I treasured this last day of summer at the beach. Peering down at my wife, I knew I had to say something.

“Grace, I love you.”

Want to be part of the Weekly Writing Challenge? Using the prompt above, write your story and publish it with a link to this story. Make sure you tag it either md-wwc or #md-wwc

Weekly Writing Challenge #33 – The Trip

Prompt – Write a story in which something transforms into something else.

The bus gently rolled to a stop near the main plaza of Palenque. A small town deep in the heart of Mexico. It had been a two day journey from El Paso, Texas and we were worn out completely. My fellow companions and I looked forward to exploring the nearby Mayan ruins. The humid air and hot temperatures had our shirts sticking to us drenched in sweat. Before venturing into the jungles, we were going to stay overnight at the Casa de la Cruz hotel. A good shower and a cool beer sounded inviting.

As we were gathering our luggage, I spied out of the corner of my eye a goat. In disbelief, I saw the goat had a bright red bandana and an incredibly small flashy sombrero. As I turned my head to look, the goat paused and looked at me with it’s slitted eyes, then turned and went around the corner of the building.

“Did anyone else see that?”, I asked.

My companions looked at me quizzically. Perhaps they thought the heat was getting to me. they looked around and one of them said, “See what?”

I opened my mouth to reply and realized that maybe I had hallucinated the goat. Prudently, I shook my head and said, “Never mind, the heat must be getting to me.”

As we checked into the hotel, I hung back and when my companions had departed for their rooms, I leaned toward the clerk and in a low voice asked if he had ever seen a goat with a bandana and a small sombrero around town.

He laughed nervously and shook his head. Before I could ask him again, he made the sign of the cross and then abruptly turned and went through the door behind the counter. I knew things would be different in a foreign country, but I had not expected this. Grasping my key tightly, I made my way to my room and quickly got undressed and jumped into the shower. As the water cascaded down upon me, I felt relieved. Any thoughts of strange goats and even stranger behaviors’ of hotel clerks melted away.

Toweling myself dry, I wrapped the towel around me and opened the door to my room. Quickly donning fresh clothes from my packed luggage, I strode back to the bathroom to give myself a quick look in the mirror. There, in the shower, the goat was back. I stumbled to a halt, my breath caught and I felt my heart skip a beat. For a long minute, the goat stared at me and I stared back. Finally, I blinked my eyes, and the goat vanished. I leaned against the counter with my head in my hands.

Had I lost my mind?

What I needed right then was a good stiff drink. I poked my head into my room looking for the goat. Not seeing it, I quickly left my room and headed downstairs to the hotel cantina. I sidled up to the bar glancing every which way but not seeing the goat. I sidled up to the bar and ordered a beer and a shot of tequila. Quickly I downed the shot and glanced into the mirror behind the bar.

The goat was right behind me. I quickly turned around and astonishingly the goat had disappeared yet again. With a grimace, I turned and ordered a double shot of tequila. I knew i needed to get massively drunk at this point. This time, I closed my eyes and threw the shot of tequila down my throat. Opening them cautiously, I didn’t see the goat in the mirror. I slowly looked to the left and then I looked to the right.

A man dressed in a Mexican suit wearing a red bandana and a ridiculously small flashy sombrero stood next to me. Hesitantly, I poked him in the shoulder with my finger. I expected my finger to go right through him, but instead it pressed against his shoulder.

“Senor, I’ve been watching you.”

I fell back onto the bar stool aghast. This was no hallucination. Somehow the imaginary goat had transformed into a man with a swarthy complexion and a pencil thin mustache.

“What… what…what do you mean by that?”, I sputtered. “Are you the goat?”

He smiled slyly, “What do you think?”

“I think I’ve lost my mind.”

A voice from behind me said, “Who you talking to?”

I turned and saw it was John, one of my traveling companions. He was sipping his beer looking at me with narrowed eyes. I looked back over my shoulder and the swarthy man was gone once again.

“Um, quite frankly, I don’t have the damnedest idea. Have you seen a goat or a man with a red bandana and a really small sombrero around?”

John eyebrows went up at that remark. Then he started laughing softly. “I think I know what’s going on. Didn’t I see Carol give you a cookie on the bus right before we hit town?”

I searched my memory and thought hard about it. “I think so, it’s kind of fuzzy at the moment.”

He threw his head back in gales of laughter. Catching his breath eventually, John put his hand around my shoulder and leaned toward me. “I think it was one of Carol’s special cookies. My friend she laced a few of them with LSD and then forgot which ones were which. Seems like you got lucky or unlucky depending on how you see it.”

“Oh thank God! I thought I was going crazy there for a while!”

Want to be part of the Weekly Writing Challenge? Using the prompt above, write your story and publish it with a link to this story. Make sure you tag it either md-wwc or #md-wwc

Weekly Writing Challenge #32 – Galaxy Robot

Prompt – You call in and get tech support. Write about your conversation.

Photo by SHVETS production on

“Hello this is Darryl, customer support specialist, IT division, how may I help you?”

“Uh yeah, I got a problem with your robot. It’s gone berserk.”

“I’m so sorry to hear that you have a problem sir. Are you calling from your cell phone, sir?”

“Yes, and you guys have really screwed up. I think the robot wants to kill me.”

“Again, I’m very sorry for the inconvenience.”

“INCONVENIENCE! Did you not hear me tell you that it wants to KILL ME!”

“Yes sir, I heard that you have a problem with the unit we sold you. By our records, it shows that you bought the G1000 model with the maid function enabled. We have never had a problem with that mod before.”

“Well, the damn thing is pacing outside of my bathroom. I’m trapped here.”

“Yes sir, I can see where that would be a problem. Let me just run a quick remote diagnostic so we can find out what the exact problem is with your G1000. Hmmm, sir, I have to ask. Did you by chance open the G1000’s maintenance panel?”

“Wait, what? Umm, I…I…I… no, I did not open the panel.”

“Sir, I don’t know if you were aware, but there is a safety signal that gets sent out when the panel is opened and I see by the records that 2 hours and 13 minutes ago the signal was sent. So I apologize, but I must ask again, did you open the maintenance panel?”

“Umm, well… maybe.”

“I understand sir. It’s only natural to be curious. However it looks like one of the modules was activated. Here at Galaxy Robotics we understand if the panel is opened, but by activating a module without a certified technician present means that your warrantee has been voided.”

“Hey, I don’t care about no warrantee! I just want this damn thing fixed or I’m going to sue you guys into oblivion.”

“I understand sir, completely. May I ask which module you were attempting to activate? It’s for our records and also for us to troubleshoot the problem.”

“Well, I’m kind of embarrassed about this, but I wanted the Girlfriend experience.”

“You do know that there is an upcharge for the Girlfriend experience, sir?”

“Yes, yes, I know, but the charge is outrageously expensive. I couldn’t afford it.”

“Unfortunately you did not activate the basic Girlfriend experience, but an advance module Girlfriend experience. The one you activated is the G1000-666 Jealous BDSM Girlfriend experience. This means you are going to have to rough up the robot pretty severely to make it behave.”

“WHAT? Are you kidding me?”

“Sir, the G1000 is configurable in over 2000 modules. It’s very easy to activate an adverse module by accident. This is why your contract states very clearly that under no circumstances is the maintenance panel and modules to be altered in any way, shape or form. Adverse consequences like legal action and other consequences may be applied.”


“Sir, are you prepared to go out and hit the robot, tie it down and have your way with it?”

“Uhh, I don’t think I can do that. Are you nuts?”

“Sir, I’m have to inform you that the G1000-666 module will think you are cheating on it unless you regularly rough it up, so to say.”

“Wow, I just wanted a normal girlfriend experience, I was so lonely. I can’t do what you are asking me to do.”

“In that case, sir, I’m forced to escalate this call. Please hold.”

“Wait! Damn hold music.”

Nervously I waited. The stomps of the robot pacing outside my door ratcheted up my anxiety. Suddenly I heard a crackle and a loud thump. The pacing had stopped. I held my breath involuntarily.

Tap, tap, tap. “Sir, it’s safe to come out now. We are with Galaxy Robotics and have disabled the malfunctioning unit.”

I opened the door and saw two men dressed in white bio-hazard suits. One of them pointed what looked like a strange gun at me. I raised my hands hesitantly.

“What is that? Why are you pointing it at me?” I demanded.

“Sir, no need to be alarmed, this is a taser gun that my colleague is holding and….”


“Dammit Jim, why don’t you ever let me finish explaining before you zap these guys.”

“Stu, you know as well as I do, it is better to get it over with quicker rather than drag it out. Go ahead and do the injection.”

Stu leaned over and pulled the my shoe off and injected me between my toes.

“Sorry sir, this is a paralytic shot. Shortly you will be completely paralyzed. Galaxy Robotics is very adverse to bad publicity and as you were told by tech support, there will be consequences to voiding the warrantee.”

Jim rolled his eyes, “Really, why do you always have to do the speech? It’s not like they can respond to it.”

“Jim, it’s protocol”

“Okay, okay. Let’s finish up this job. I need a cold beer. Finish your speech while I go get things ready.”

Stu turned back to me, “Sir, unfortunately you are going to also be experiencing a natural gas leak in your house. Within the next thirty minutes, there will be an explosion. I’m sorry to say you won’t survive it. The injection I gave you will let you experience this event with little to no pain.”

Stu turned away and then paused, “Have a happy day and thanks for being a Galaxy Robotics Customer.”

Want to be part of the Weekly Writing Challenge? Using the prompt above, write your story and publish it with a link to this story. Make sure you tag it either md-wwc or #md-wwc

Weekly Writing Challenge #31 – The Moon

Prompt – Write a scene that includes the number 100.


Slowly I woke up. It was dark except for the glow of my smart phone. I realized that my phone had been buzzing constantly. Normally I kept my phone on silent while I slept. I leapt out of bed and rushed to where my phone had been left on the charger overnight. I had gotten text messages and they kept on coming.

The phone said it was 3 am. Who would be texting me over and over at this time of night? It could be my pal George. Maybe he was drunk yet again. I wouldn’t put it past him to pull a prank like this. I imagine he was texting and giggling the whole time. Time to put a stop to this nonsense. I needed my sleep as I had to go to work in a few hours.

I picked up the phone and unlocked it and saw that I had 100 text messages. Holy cow! George must be on an epic drinking spree. I opened up my phone to check out the messages. The first one said simply, “Do not look at the moon.” That’s pretty random, even for George. The second one had the same message and so did the third. I kept on scrolling and every single one said the exact same thing.

“Do not look at the moon.”

Probably because it was 3 am, it took me a while to realize that each message came from a different number. In fact, George had not texted me at all. I walked out to the living room and glanced toward the front windows. There was a glow, a red glow coming through. I started toward the windows to check it out, but paused after a few steps. Looking down at my phone at all the messages started to creep me out.

Fully awake now, I opened up a browser to see if there was any news about the moon. I kept getting a 404 screen. Web page not found. Peering at the upper right corner of my phone, I saw that I had wi-fi connectivity. Maybe someone hacked my wi-fi? I turned off the wi-fi and checked that I had five bars. Excellent cell tower connection, but I still kept getting the 404 error.

What the heck is going on?

I grabbed my remote and turned on the TV. As I had cut the cord to cable years ago, I switched the input to TV antenna. Nothing but a blank screen with the words, “No input detected.” I checked that my HD antenna had power and the connection to the TV was secure. Still nothing.

I let out a little scream of surprise as my phone started buzzing in my hand. Text message after text message appeared. This time they all said, “It’s a beautiful night, you should go look at the moon.”

Maybe I’m dreaming? A nightmare of some sorts.

I pinched myself and it definitely hurt. I had read that you couldn’t feel the actual pain if you dreamed that you were pinching yourself. I don’t know if that was true or not, but I couldn’t do a search on the internet to find out.

Should I heed the original messages? Or should I go outside and look at the moon?

I did something I swore I would never do. I called George at 3 am. His phone went directly to voice mail. Not surprising as he was prone to letting his battery run all the way down until his phone shut off.

If this was a prank, it was epic. Frozen with indecision, I couldn’t decide what to do. I found my fingers dialing 911. If this was a prank, it seemed ominous and dangerous. The phone rang and rang. I glanced toward the front windows again. It seemed that it was getting brighter than it had been.

I pride myself on being a strong man. Not one to let fear rule my life. For the first time since I was a kid, I felt like running back to bed and crawling under the covers. Hiding and shaking in fright.

I gave a quick shake of my head to dismiss my fears. I’m being silly I thought. Time to put this mystery to rest. I strode toward the door constantly reassuring myself that I am not afraid. I’m determined to see what the fuss is about.

I grasped the door knob and found myself frozen in fright once again. Am I doing the right thing? Maybe I should run back to bed and hide there until morning. No, I couldn’t face myself if I let fear rule my life. I closed my eyes tightly and turned the door knob. Then pulled the door open and took two steps outside. I felt a sense of my former pride and ego coming back. Slowly I opened my right eye slightly to look at the moon. It was blurry, but I could see that it was huge. Definitely a harvest moon.

Clenching my eyes shut, I felt the overpowering fear rush over me. I took a step back. Then I remember what my father had always told me when I was young. “You have to face your fears. Fear is not real.”

Nodding my head as if in agreement with my father, I knew that I had to open my eyes and look at the moon. I took a deep breath, held it for a few seconds and then let it out.

My eyes opened wide and I looked at the moon.

Want to be part of the Weekly Writing Challenge? Using the prompt above, write your story and publish it with a link to this story. Make sure you tag it either md-wwc or #md-wwc

Weekly Writing Challenge #30 – Balloon Heist

Prompt – Write about purple glasses. Black hair. Polka dot shoes.

Photo by Padli Pradana on

“Start from the beginning, what happened?”

“It was the darnedest thing. This guy walks into store. He looked funny.”

“What do you mean, funny?”

“Well, the first thing I noticed is that his shoes made a slapping sound. That’s because he was wearing those big clown shoes.”

“Clown shoes? What color where they?”

“Well, they were red with white polka dots. I They were so big, I couldn’t help but think that they would be hard to walk wearing them.”

“What else did you notice about him? What was he wearing?”

“Look, I’m sure everyone else has already told you what he looked like.”

“Yes, but I want to be sure about all the details, so go ahead and tell me everything about how he looked. Besides that, you were the closest to the guy.”

“Okay, he had on these big purple glasses. You know, the ones you get at a carnival or novelty store. He also had what looked like a wig.”

“Wait? A wig? Are you sure?”

“Yeah, it was definitely a wig. I would say it was a Cher wig. You know, black hair that was way too straight and it came down to his knees.”

“Interesting. Go on”

“Well, he was carrying a bunch of balloons.”

“In his right hand or left?”

“Definitely his left hand. Then he stopped in front of me and pulled out a toy gun.”

“Did you know it was a toy gun immediately?”

“Oh yeah, not a doubt. It was bright orange and yellow. He pointed it right at me and pulled the trigger. There was a light pop and a flag came out with the words ‘Bang’ on it.”

“Then what happened?”

“I figured it was a practical joke and I started laughing and looking around to see who had paid this guy to do this silly stunt.”

“When did you know it wasn’t a joke?”

“Well, he pulled out another gun…”

“With his right or left hand?”

“It was his left hand for sure.”

“Wait, wasn’t he carrying balloons with his left hand?”

“Yes, but when he pulled the trigger on the toy gun, he let the balloons go and they floated up to the ceiling. See up there?”

“Yes, I see them. What did he do with the toy gun?”

“Hmm, I don’t know. One moment it was in his hand, the next it disappeared. Anyways, with the other gun, he shot the two Brinks guards that were collecting the days receipts.”

“Was the gunshots loud?”

“No, they were like an airsoft pistol. The guards slapped their necks and then went down. I could see darts sticking out. Are they okay?”

“Yes, they were apparently knocked out by tranquilizer darts.”

“Well, that’s good to know. I was worried about them.”

“They are already awake and the EMT’s are checking them out. So what did he do next?”

“Well, this is what made this whole thing surreal. He put his left finger to his lips like he was telling me to be quiet and then…”

“Which hand did he use?”

“That’s what made it strange, he used his left hand again. I don’t know what happened to the gun. I mean, he could have put it back into his coat. It was a long trench coat. Dark brown, I think.”

“That is strange. Keep going.”

“Well, he picks up a bag of cash from the one guard and then walks out almost in a saunter with his shoes slapping the whole way.”

“What did you do then?”

“Quite frankly, I was frozen in shock. I couldn’t believe all that had happened. Have you guys caught this guy yet?’

“Um, no unfortunately. But we are getting closer each time.”

“Wait? He’s done this before? Why hasn’t there been any news about it?”

“Quite simply, this is the fourth place he’s hit today. I’m sure we’ll get a break pretty soon.”

“Detective! Detective! They spotted him over at the Avenues Mall, looks like he’s hit another place already.”

“Damn it. Um, thank you ma’am. If you can think of anything else, let one of the patrol guys know.”

“Sure, okay. I’m not sure who are the bigger clowns here, that guy or you cops.”

Want to be part of the Weekly Writing Challenge? Using the prompt above, write your story and publish it with a link to this story. Make sure you tag it either md-wwc or #md-wwc

Weekly Writing Challenge #29 – The Harvest

Prompt – Write a story about something weird that happened on a full moon.

Full Moon (201507310004HQ) by NASA HQ PHOTO is licensed under CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

I remember it vividly. The first full moon of the fall. Or as the early settlers in West Texas used to call it, the Comanche Moon. That signaled a time for the Comanche warriors to raid white settlements killing, raping and capturing anyone they came across.

Nowadays, it is a peaceful moon. For the farmers, it is called a Harvest Moon as you can keep working the fields well into the night just by the glow of the moon. I was baling alfalfa for the unheard of ninth time this season. The barn was bursting with alfalfa bales to feed the horses around town. The weather had been perfect all summer long, raining at the right moments between cuttings.

I bale at night, so the humidity packs the alfalfa bales tighter as the baler behind my tractor gathered up the alfalfa. Ka-thunk, ka-thunk, ka-thunk went the baler. A comforting rhythm during these long hours in the field. With the moon so bright, I turned off the lights of the tractor. Times like these are rare and to be treasured. A familiar swoosh went by my head as our barn owl hunted rabbits being flushed out by my tractor.

As I reached the end of the field and turned around to follow the next line of alfalfa, a strange thing happened. The barn owl, which I had only glimpsed before, landed on the front end of the tractor. It’s wingspan was at least six feet. But once perched on the tractor, the wings folded up so neatly, you would swear they were only a foot in length.

I couldn’t help but smile. No one would believe me, but that was okay, I knew in my heart I was witnessing something special. Half-way back toward the barn and the owl gracefully spread it’s wings and with a couple of flaps took off into the night. I settled back into the rhythm of driving the tractor on my lonely vigil up and down the field.

After making my regular turn by the barn, I headed off toward the far end of the field. Half-way there, I saw something weird. Maybe the moonlight was playing tricks on my eyes? Seemed there were men on horses at the far end. It could be the fenceposts causing this illusion, but the horses were very near each other. I must be getting tired and seeing things. Perhaps I should turn my lights back on.

I decided not too, as the sight of the horses mesmerized me. Nearing the end of the field, I saw that the men on the horses looked to be wearing Indian clothes. I pulled the throttle back on the tractor and shifted into neutral. I kept shaking my head and blinking my eyes furiously, but the weird sight didn’t go away. Am I losing my mind?

I reached down and cut the engine of the tractor. Silence fell. I could then hear the nickering and pawing of the ground by the horses. This was no illusion! This was real! The Indians as one lifted rifles and pointed them directly at me. I knew then the dreaded Comanche had come to kill me.

Resigned to my fate, I closed my eyes awaiting the blasting of bullets to tear into my body. Then my cell phone started ringing. I looked down and grabbed it from my front pocket and saw my wife was calling me. As I lifted it to my ear to answer, the Indians vanished.

“You okay? Why did you stop the tractor?”

“Um, I thought I saw something weird.”

“Like what? I’ve been watching you with the binoculars and I didn’t see anything.”

“It’s nothing, I must be tired. I only have about an hour of baling to do. I’ll be fine.”

To this day, I don’t know if the Indians were real or a figment of my imagination. Not wanting to find out for sure, I never ever baled alfalfa during a Harvest Moon for the rest of my life.

The Recon Job

Harry walked into the crime boss’s office and plopped a canvas bag on his desk.

“What’s this?”

“That is a bank bag,” said Harry.

“I can see that, but you were supposed to do a recon job for me, not bring me a bank bag. What happened?”

“Well, I didn’t get the recon job done.”

“Why not?” exclaimed the crime boss.

“May I sit?”

The crime boss nodded and Harry sat down on a chair facing the desk.

Harry sighed, “I went to do the recon job as you asked. I had left early so I would have plenty of time. But as I was heading there, I came upon a Mexican restaurant serving Jalisco style food. I really like Jalisco so I stopped for lunch and had a wonderful meal.”

“What’s that got to do with the job?”

Harry pulled out a cigar, “May I? It’s Cuban.”

The boss shook his head, “I don’t like the smell of cigars.”

Harry put the cigar back into his front pocket, “After I left the restaurant, still having plenty of time to get to the recon site, I felt a rumble in my stomach which quickly moved down to my bowels. Thinking it was gas, I lifted my right cheek. Unfortunately, it wasn’t gas. I sharted myself.”

The boss looked confused, “Sharted? What the hell is that?”

Harry hung his head and said, “Well, a shart is when you go to pass gas and more than a fart comes out.”

The boss laughed and indicated for Harry to continue.

“I quickly pulled to the side of the road. It was a back road, so no one else was around. As my stomach was still rumbling, I leapt out of the car and ran twenty feet into a field by the road. I barely got my pants off before my bowels erupted.”

The boss steepled his hands below his chin.

Harry continued, “Then I went to the trunk of my car and pulled out a towel and a shovel. I always believe in being prepared, but I hadn’t thought of bringing a spare pair of pants. I used the towel to clean myself off.”

“That is an image I’d rather not picture. What’s with the shovel?”

“Well, there was no way I was going to put my pants and the towel back into the car. I didn’t want to litter either, so the shovel was to dig a hole to bury them and the mess I made in the field. There I am, digging away in the field by the road, naked from the waist down when I heard a thunk.”

“A thunk?” the boss leaned forward glancing at the bank bag.

“A thunk, then as I continued to dig, more thunks until I unearthed a old wooden box. I lifted the box and it crumbled in my hands. But there was that bank bag inside.”

“This bank bag?”

“Yes. I peeked inside and saw it was filled with money. I took three of the hundred dollar bills to buy a new towel and new pants. Also to get my car thoroughly clean inside and out. Since I was supposed to be doing a job for you, I figure that the money is yours. I don’t know why someone buried it. Maybe they were dumb and forgot about it.”

“I’m disappointed you didn’t do the recon job, but I do believe you have redeemed yourself by bringing me this bag. Consider your debt to me paid in full.”

“Thank you so very much!”

The boss opened the bag and dumped the money on his desk, Bundles of hundreds and fifties spread all over his desk. The boss grinned widely. Then he picked up one bundle with a curious look.

“This is different, I wonder why…”

BANG! The dye pack hidden in the bundle exploded with purple dye. The dye went everywhere. All over the money, on the boss and also the wall behind him. The boss froze in shock.

Harry quietly said under his breath, “I guess the bank robbers weren’t as dumb as I thought,” as he slunk out of the room.

All stories of Harry Gruen are now linked on the Storylines page if you wish to read them all.